Friday, November 25, 2005

Escape from New York: UCLA edges Drexel

By Bruin Basketball Report

Box Score

Hollywood director John Carpenter would have been inspired by UCLA's win today to write another sequel to his cult classic, "Esacpe from New York".

Trailing by two points to Drexel with less than 8 seconds left in the game, UCLA (4-1) was bailed-out with not one but two shooting fouls to pull out a win 57-56 in the consolation game of the NIT Season Tip-Off tournament.

Sophomore Arron Afflalo pulled up from behind the 3-point arc and was fouled on his shot with less than 8 seconds left on the game clock. Drexel Coach "Bruiser" Flint kicked and grumbled but Afflalo was clearly hit across the wrist. Afflalo proceeded to hit two of three free throws to tie the score with just over 6 seconds left in the game. Bail-out #1.

After an ensuing UCLA timeout, the Bruins pressured Drexel into throwing the ball away on the inbounds pass for a quick turnover. Then sophomore leader Jordan Farmar promptly drove the ball into the lane and was fouled by Drexel with 0.8 seconds left on the clock. Bail-out #2.

Farmar took a deep breath before his first of two free throws knowing either free throw would win the game - he promptly shot an air ball missing the rim by 2 feet. Farmar and his teammates all let out a huge laugh which was probably a good thing as the humor of missing the first shot so badly seemed to relax Farmar for his second foul shot.

He calmly made the second free throw to seal the win.

"I had seen it happen before but I never thought it would happen to me," Farmar said, "I had to laugh, calm down and knock down the second and get out of here with a win."

In the first half, senior forward Cedric Bozeman kept the Bruins in the game with his calm play and shooting and sophomore Lorenzo Mata played solidly in the post.

Bozeman finished with 10 points on 5-6 shooting while Mata, who started the 2nd half at center, finished with 8 points and 8 rebounds.

Howland played Mata more in this game due to the ineffectiveness of his two 7-foot senior centers, Ryan Hollins and Michael Fey.

Nonetheless, Howland was impressed with Mata's hustle and effort; "we will play those players who play hard in practice", Howland said, suggesting Mata may see more minutes in coming games due to his work ethic in practices.

UCLA led at the half 30-26 mainly due to the poor shooting of Drexel. Drexel's Dominick Mejia who scored 25 against Duke finished with only 2 points in this game.

Drexel opened the second half with the first six points and opened up a seven point lead as the Dragons began to take advantage of UCLA's soft interior.

The game had humiliating D-E-F-E-A-T written all over it for UCLA - even though Drexel played Duke tough in the semifinal game the Dragons still had not recorded a win against a ranked team since 1998.

Jordan Farmar played perhaps the worst game of his UCLA career, up until his final second game-winning free throw, finishing with only 6 points on 1-10 shooting and 4 turnovers.

Arron Afflalo shot only 1-4 in the first half before he got a hot hand and brought the UCLA team back single handedly by scoring 11 points down the stretch cutting the deficit to two points.

Luc Richard Mbah a Moute played poorly in the first half but came alive in the second with key rebounds as well as a scramble for a key loose ball which led to Afflalo's game tying foul shots.

The Bruins did their best impression of Snake Plissken tonight. Kurt Russell would have been proud.

Post Game Notes: The Bruins fly back to Westwood tomorrow morning to relax the rest of the weekend at home. They play Albany next Tuesday (Nov.29) at Pauley.


Thursday, November 24, 2005

UCLA vs. Drexel - Preview

No. 16 Ben Howland's UCLA Bruins (Pac-10/3-1) play James "Bruiser" Flint's Drexel Dragons (Colonial Athletic Association/3-1) in Friday's NIT Season Tip-Off third-place game at Madison Square Garden.

This is the first meeting between the two teams.

On Thursday night at The Garden, Drexel stayed with No. 1 Duke throughout most of the game, before falling 78-68.

The Dragons had three players in double figures, led by junior guard Dominick Mejia's 25 points. By advancing to New York City, the Dragons won at Princeton (54-41) and defeated Sam Houston State 72-61 in Philadelphia.

Entering the Duke contest, the Dragons' had four players scoring in double figures, led by Mejia (16.7).

Chaz Crawford, 6-10 junior center, was seventh last season in the nation in blocked shots (he had three vs. Duke) and led the Dragons in rebounding (6.8/he had a game-high tying nine rebounds vs. Duke).

Junior point guard Bashir Mason last season was a CAA All-Defensive team selection.

The Bruins return home Saturday morning and will host two home games in Pauley Pavilion the following week.

On Tuesday (Nov. 29), UCLA will play Albany at 7:30 p.m. (TV-FSNW2/Radio-XTRA 570) and on Sunday (Dec. 4), the Bruins face Coppin State at 1 p.m. (TV-none/Radio-XTRA 570).

(UCLA Press Release)

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Farmar Can't Do It All, Memphis Beats UCLA

By Bruin Basketball Report

Box Score

The UCLA Bruins had no problems breaking the Memphis Tigers vaunted full court pressure

Unfortunately once the Bruins broke the press they had problems executing their offense in the half court as the Bruins lost to Memphis 88-80 in a semifinal match of the NIT Season Tip-Off.

The Bruins (3-1) were down double digits halfway through the first half against the Tigers (3-0) on remarkable 3-point shooting by Memphis freshman, Shawne Williams, who hit on 5-5 of them before the half.

Prior to this game, Williams had shot a total of three 3-point shots over two games. Obviously Williams was feeling it, and unfortunately for the Bruins it resulted in a 17 point deficit by halftime.

On offense the Bruins looked flat in their half court set and the Tigers size and length appeared to bother them.

The Bruins were thoroughly dominated by the Memphis defense in the half-court and their big men dominated the paint blocking and altering shots

The Memphis perimeter pressure defense regularly pushed the Bruin offense out to 35 feet from the basket. Hard to score from that distance.

Perhaps UCLA coach Ben Howland may look back at this game on videotape and find that his tactics to slow the pace to a halfcourt game may have backfired.

When UCLA easily broke the Tiger press each time down the court, instead of attacking the basket with advantageous numbers, Howland chose to have his Bruin team pull the ball back out and set up in a half court set -- a half court offense which was highly ineffective throughout the game.

The Bruins may have had a better chance if they had run and aggressively pushed the ball against Memphis instead. They had run the break at every opportunity against other opponents but Howland chose not to run today against the Tigers.

The game only got close in the last 8 minutes of the game because Jordan Farmar decided to take matters into his own hands and began sinking 3 point shots and deft drives to bring the Bruins back to respectability.

Farmar ended the game with 28 points (4 of 9 from the arc) and 7 assists.

Arron Afflalo, the leading scorer for the Bruins in the previous three games, had 14 points, but seemed to force the issue at times during the game resulting in bad shots or turnovers. He also had 6 rebounds.

UCLA will play Drexel on Friday in the consolation game.

Drexel played #1 Duke tough to the end in their semifinal game before Duke finally pulled away in the final minute of the game winning 78-68.


Tuesday, November 22, 2005

UCLA vs. Memphis - Preview

By Bruin Basketball Report

The 05-06 UCLA squad gets their first chance in the national spotlight when they face the Memphis Tigers in the semifinal round of the NIT Season Tip-off tournament on Wednesday.

Memphis ran Alabama off their own home court in a second round game.

The Tigers applied a relentless 98 foot court press on 'Bama, and while Memphis had 10 pair of athletic legs to run the press for the full 40 minutes, the Tide whithered under the pressure due to the fact they had only one true ballhandler on the floor.

Note to the other SEC teams: press 'Bama until they drop...

Alabama head coach, Brian Gottfried, did a horrible job coaching. Alabama is obviously not a running team, yet after repeated hurried shots and turnovers by his players, instead of Gottfried calling time-outs to have his kids slow the pace down- he allowed them to play at a frenetic pace and right into the hands of Memphis.

How will the Memphis press do against UCLA? Expect a track meet! More importantly, expect UCLA to handle the press expertly.

The Bruins suit up four regulars who have played point guard during their careers at UCLA: Jordan Farmar, Darren Collison, Cedric Bozeman, and Arron Afflalo. This depth will allow the Bruins to easily break the Tiger press and then to immediately attack the basket for easy 2 on 1 scoring opportunities.

Also, if the Tiger press does happen to cause the Bruins to rush into bad shots or create turnovers - expect UCLA coach Howland to step in with a solution before the game gets out of hand.

Keys to a Bruins victory over Memphis:

1. Handle the press and minimize turnovers.

2. Punish the Memphis defense by attacking the hoop for easy scores after breaking the press

3. Memphis is not a good perimeter shooting team. Shut down Rodney Carney, the Tigers only consistent outside threat, with either Cedric Bozeman or Luc Richard Mbah a Moute.

4. Play own aggressive and pressure defense to create easy scores.

Sophomore star Jordan Farmar and senior Michael Fey, both who were injured and sat out Saturday's Delaware game, are expected to play against Memphis.

If UCLA beats Memphis then the stage only gets bigger, as the winner of their game gets to play the winner of the other semifinal game - #1Duke vs. Drexel - in the final.


Sunday, November 20, 2005

Cedric Bozeman, Bruins "Point Forward"

By Bruin Basketball Report

Rewind to the beginning of last year.

Howland had just anointed senior Cedric Bozeman as the starting point guard for the Bruin 2004-05 squad despite the fact that Bozeman's previous three years at UCLA had been rather unspectacular, and perhaps in some minds, somewhat disappointing.

Just before the season was to begin, Bozeman injures his knee and decides to red-shirt his senior year.

Rewind further three years back.

When highly recruited from high school, Bozeman was expected to step into the Bruin line-up and follow in the line of UCLA star point guards - Earl Watson and Baron Davis had just preceded him and were playing in the NBA.

Unfortunately, Bozeman hurt his knee before the start of the season and when he did return, Bozeman was not able to keep up with the quicker Pac-10 point guards defensively, and just as disquieting for fans, Bozeman couldn't hit from the outside if his life (career) depended on it.

Fast forward to this season.

Now a fifth year senior. Bozeman is no longer the team's point guard - sophomore Wooden award nominee Jordan Farmar backed by freshman sensation Darren Collison are now the team's point guards.

Bozeman is now playing the small forward spot - a position he would have battled Josh Shipp for playing time. However with Shipp rehabilatating from offseason surgery, Bozeman was given the starting position almost by default.

Injuries can lead to misfortune and opportunities in sports. In Cedric Bozeman's case he has experienced both.

Bozeman has sparkled in every Bruin game in the young basketball season. His experience and leadership, on a team with predominately freshmen and sophomore and ravaged by injuries, has been welcomed by both his teammates and head coach Ben Howland.

Howland recently commented after a game, "he's (Bozeman) played a lot of games for us and he knows what to do". Howland has especially been impressed with Bozeman's "tough play" this year in particular his defense and rebounding.

Bozeman has played solid man defense usually guarding the opponent's best scorer; the team's second best rebounder, his outside shooting (4-7 three-pointers), and has passed - well, like a point guard.

Bozeman has literally redefined his role on the team - he is the team's "point-forward", a role which fits Howland's up tempo, fast breaking team perfectly.

Usually when a Bruin player grabs a defensive rebound, Howland demands he immediately looks for Jordan Farmar for an outlet pass. However when Bozeman rebounds, he has the green light to push the ball up the court for fast break opportunities.

It has helped relieve some pressure off Farmar, and it also has created the easy type of scoring chances Howland plans to have his team capitalize on this year.

Bozeman's senior leadership and improved play is a key ingredient to the Bruin's success this year. This squad has a talented corp of freshmen and sophomores; however, when tournament time arrives in March it will help to have a senior leader on the floor.

If the Bruins expect to advance deep into the tournament this year then much of their success will depend on the play of Cedric Bozeman.